Banner 35th ECS conference
35 ECS conference logo


Workshops will be held on Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th, April 2024, before the main plenary session of the ECS Conference 2024 (10th-12th April).

They will be hosted by the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences of the University of Catania. Classroom are distributed in three locations:

Workshops have an associated cost that is NOT included in the conference registration, except when they are directly offered by the organizers:

  • €20/person for a Half-Day workshop
  • €30/person for a Full-Day Workshop
  • There are two STUDENT workshops that will be given FREE OF CHARGE for students.

Workshop registrations and attendance payments can be made through the following two dedicated pages. You can also add registration for one or more workshops to your cart on the conference registration page (remember to Log in first!). Places are limited so registrations will be on a first-come, first-served basis until March 25th, 2024.

Students of the degree courses in Natural and Environmental Sciences (L-32) and Master’s degree in Environmental Biology (LM6) of the University of Catania who will attend at least 3 workshops for a total of 12 hours (at least one full day and 2 half-days) can request the recognition of 1 CFU for Other Training Activities.

Register for Half-Day Workshop 

Register for Full-Day Workshop 

For more information on a specific workshop or to participate remotely, contact each workshop organizer.

Descriptions and Schedule of the workshops are below. More information will be updated in the next weeks.


Schedule April 8th


Schedule April 9th



MONDAY, APRIL 8th, 2024


8M1. Protecting the lesser known cetaceans of the NE Atlantic (an ASCOBANS Workshop)

MONDAY, 8:30-12:30, Aula Darwin - Via Empedocle, 58, University of Catania

Description:  The Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS) works to conserve small cetaceans within the NE Atlantic and it has concluded conservation plans for various populations of harbour porpoise and the common dolphin. Bottlenose dolphin populations also have a range of initiatives associated with them beyond the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive. There are nine other small cetacean species regularly found in the Agreement area and these currently receive far less attention. This workshop is intended to promote action to address the issues that they are facing by bringing together experts to firstly review what is known about them, including significant data gaps, and then brainstorming how to best take forward their conservation. Consideration will be given to alternative approaches to investigate them, for example, the greater use of citizen science, photo-ID, acoustics and strandings where appropriate. This workshop will provide a report to the next meeting of the Advisory Committee of ASCOBANS and will also be made available to other interested parties. The species considered will include those that are data-deficient, such as beaked whales, white-beaked and Risso’s dolphins. Proposals for presentations are welcome.

Organizer: Mark Peter Simmonds (University of Bristol; OceanCare); Peter Evans (SeaWatch; University of Bangor), 


8M2. Neuroscience as an Emerging Field in Marine Mammalogy

MONDAY, 08:30-12:30, Aula Marie Curie - Via Empedocle, 58, University of Catania.

Description:  Marine mammal brains are remarkable both in their own right, and as unique translational models for human anatomy and physiopathology. Relatively few research groups and individuals have over the years dedicated their expertise to the research of the central nervous system of these animals, with impressive results considering the technologies of the time.  These results were usually morphological and qualitative in nature. With emerging policies requiring an evidence-based approach to monitoring marine mammals as indicators of the ocean health, a more systematic understanding of their brain function can complement our assessments of their health and welfare. Under these conditions, marine mammal neuroscience can grow as a multidisciplinary field, becoming increasingly quantitative and replicable with modern imaging, histological, and molecular techniques. To maximize the yield and quality of future neuroscientific output, this workshop aims to gather scientists currently involved in marine mammal neuroscience, review the current state of knowledge, discuss advantages/disadvantages of past and present methodologies, and outline research priorities and good scientific practices. Anticipated workshop outputs are: a contact list of a hub of marine mammal neuroscientists and which tools and technologies they have access to, and documents stating research priorities and best practices for brain sampling and banking.  

Organizer: Ksenia Orekhova and Jean-Marie Graïc (Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food Science, University of Padova; Cetacean Emergency Response Team, University of Padova),


8A1. Questioning the Possibilities of doing Marine Biology field work for researchers with disabilities?

MONDAY, 14:00-18:00

Description:  Due to the UN Convention right for disabled people the modes education and university education are supposed to be adapted to the needs of disabled persons (barrier free and accessible). Which options in Marine biology studies exist for disabled, handicapped, blind, deaf, neurodivergent (Autism/ASS/ADHD) students and researchers - especially when it comes to on site or on boat research? Which adaptions would be necessary to make the investigation on boats or secluded Marine research areas accessible for researchers with disabilities? Might even standard laboratories be a challenge for some of us disabled researchers? Which projects are known to have opened up and applied all necessary technical physical and structural adaptions to realize modes of full accessibility? How can personal assistance in field work be organized? Or might it be illusionary to ask those questions and more reasonable indeed for the disabled researcher to limitate oneselves to the analytical and numerical modeling and processing their research in digital space? This workshop will be presented in world cafe /action research mode only - you are the specialists. Still no ongoing research on this field is done.

We regret to inform you that this workshop is no longer available due to unforeseen circumstances. The organizer intends to reschedule it for next year so if you are interested you can contact her directly to stay informed.

Organizer: Iris Schneider Inklusionsreferat (Goethe Universität, Frankfurt),


8A2. Student workshop – Stress, wellbeing and performance in academic journeys

MONDAY, 14:00-18:00, Aula Colonnato - Via Longo, 19, University of Catania.

Description: Pursuing a career in marine mammal science is an incredible privilege but the pressures and limitations caused by competing tasks, mobility and power dynamics, among others, might pose personal and professional challenges to young researchers, and cause them to push beyond their limits. When not timely understood and addressed, negative experiences can lead not only to poor individual wellbeing, but also to sub-optimal academic performance. 
The participants to the 2023 ECS student workshop on “Mental Health and Wellbeing in Academia” concluded that it is important to continue to raise awareness for mental health issues in the marine mammal community, and in science in general.
In order to keep offering students a safe, open space of awareness, education and empowerment on themes related to healthy academic journeys, this workshop has the double aim to equip participants with an understanding of “good” and “bad” stress and their implications on wellbeing and performance, and to create opportunities for action-oriented reflection and peer-exchange on drivers and solutions for effective individual stress management.

Organizer: Yaly Mevorach (Student Representative, ECS. Morris Kahn Marine Research Station, Department of Marine Biology, Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences, University of Haifa, Israel.),


8F1. SAMBAH II: Harmonising passive acoustic data collection and processing methods around the Baltic Sea

MONDAY, 8:30-12:30 and 14:00-18:00, Aula Linneo - Via Empedocle, 58, University of Catania

Description:  The SAMBAH II project aims to determine the abundance and spatial density of the Critically Endangered Baltic Proper harbour porpoise; information essential for eight countries around the Baltic Sea to report under various EU legislation, as well as for national assessments and marine spatial planning. Currently, collection of passive acoustic data from national monitoring programmes around the Baltic Sea is not harmonized. For this reason, the SAMBAH II consortium was formed to enable collaboration and harmonization of monitoring efforts between governmental authorities and scientific organisations around the Baltic Sea. This workshop will provide a platform for these organisations to come together, agree on and understand the planned methods for implementing the project in a harmonized way. Topics on the agenda are likely to include: equipment to be used and deployment methods; project metadata collection and datasheets; methods for additional sampling (e.g. planned eDNA sampling, and playbacks of porpoise-like sounds for use in determination of porpoise density); data processing; data delivery and responsibilities. This workshop will also serve as an opportunity for many people in the consortium to meet each other for the first time in person and network, assisting with increasing project strength.

Organizer: Kylie Owen (Swedish Museum of Natural History),  

8F2. Use of pathology to better inform the welfare impact assessment of bycatch and entanglements

MONDAY, 08:30-12:30 and 14:00-18:00, Aula Longo - Via Androne, 81, University of Catania.

Description:  Research into the welfare impact of bycatch on marine mammals has until only relatively recently come to the fore driven by concerns raised by animal welfare organisations, the public and the scientific community. An issue commonly cited in recent publications is a relatively poor understanding of bycatch pathophysiology, which is needed to help provide an accurate assessment of welfare impacts on individuals. The lack of observation of the vast majority of bycatch events means pathology has an important role in helping answer some of the questions welfare experts have. The diagnosis of some bycatch events continues to be problematic and little has been done to collate the information to provide better understanding of the pathophysiological processes involved. The workshop aims to bring together interested parties to discuss the pathology and pathophysiology of bycatch leading to a greater understanding of welfare impacts, highlight new areas for research and assist in building links between pathologists and welfare experts. A suggested injury impact evaluation scoring system will be presented and a Delphi style approach will be employed during the workshop, to assess the value of this scoring system and garner expert opinion on its applicability to chronic entanglement cases. 

Organizer: Mark Wessels (UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme), 


8F3. Mapping human activity data in the ACCOBAMS area (an ACCOBAMS workshop)

MONDAY, 08:30-12:30 and 14:00-18:00, Aula sud - Via Androne, 81, University of Catania.

Description: According to the ACCOBAMS Conservation Plan, Parties shall endeavour to establish and manage specially protected areas corresponding to the areas which serve as habitat of cetaceans. Data on human pressures at an appropriate geographical and temporal scale are needed, with spatial mapping being an important tool to identify hot-/cold-spots of anthropogenic pressures (e.g., see Resolution 6.24). The obtained maps, overlayed with cetacean habitats, would provide a synoptic view on areas under actual or potential threats for cetaceans in the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. Once areas affected by single or cumulative anthropogenic pressures are identified, suitable mitigation and conservation measures can be discussed and proposed on a case-by-case basis. This process is linked to many other ACCOBAMS initiatives and to the implementation of other relevant policies that are of interest to ACCOBAMS Parties (e.g., Barcelona Convention EcAp/IMAP, EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive and Marine Spatial Planning, Natura 2000, EBSAs, etc.). Objectives of this workshop are: (i) to review data sources, access and availability on human activities at sea, (ii) to identify best and robust spatial analysis frameworks to obtain quantitative maps, (iii) to review and identify the best metrics to map human pressures and to agree on terminology.

The associated cost of this workshop is supported by ACCOBAMS for all its participants.

Organizer: Maylis Salivas (ACCOBAMS), 

TUESDAY, APRIL 9th, 2024

9M1. Development of a European Marine Strandings Database: Workshop 2

TUESDAY, 08:30-12:30, Aula Darwin - Via Empedocle, 58, University of Catania

Description: Throughout Europe, there are several regional stranding schemes collecting data about stranded marine animals and undertaking varying levels of investigation, from basic morphometrics to full necropsies. Several of these longstanding networks hold multi-decadal datasets collated and reported at a national level. Many marine mammal species are highly mobile, and it the value of aggregating and collating strandings data throughout their ecological range has long been recognised. There is an increasing need to have these data at finer resolution with shorter reporting lags to better identify emerging threats or unusual mortality events. Therefore, a centralised European Marine Stranding Database was proposed by ASCOBANS to collate the data from regional stranding schemes into one centralised access point for better marine mammal monitoring. A scoping workshop held during ECS 2023 gave strong support for such a database and proposals to resource and develop an initial phase have been scoped during 2023. This workshop will build on the outcomes of the 2023 workshop and focus on identifying the key components required to develop the first phase of the database. This will include agreement on aims for the database, identification of key users and mechanisms for funding, agreement of data fields, data management, harmonization and sharing in addition to those data for inclusion and mechanisms for standardisation.

Organizer: Andrew Brownlow (University of Glasgow/Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme - SMASS), Jenny Renell (ASCOBANS),  , 


9M2. Management of Cumulative Underwater Noise

TUESDAY, 08:30-12:30, Aula Ex cappella 1st floor - Via Empedocle, 58, University of Catania

Description: While offshore wind is a key part of the future renewable energy supply for much of Europe, we must ensure these projects can be developed in a way that does not significantly impact on sensitive and highly protected marine mammal species, such as the harbour porpoise. Where there are a high number of offshore wind developments planned for the future, there is the potential for conflicting and competing developer demands for emitting noise into the marine environment. This needs to be effectively managed, alongside other marine industries, to ensure marine mammal populations are not affected. Across EU waters and within UK designated sites (for harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena), there are set disturbance thresholds which cannot be exceeded. The purpose of this workshop would be to provide detail on these thresholds, and what it means where there are multiple disturbing activities happening at the same time, i.e. how can these projects and activities (such as multiple offshore windfarms, or seismic surveys) be mitigated and managed to ensure there is no significant disturbance? The final part of the workshop will be to discuss how experience from UK waters can be applied to the disturbance thresholds for EU waters.

Organizer: Gemma Starmore (Royal HaskoningDHV), 

9M3. Can highly mobile species benefit from highly protected areas?

TUESDAY, 08:30-12:30, Aula Marie Curie - Via Empedocle, 58, University of Catania.

Description: The aim of this workshop is to bring together individuals who have experience and insights into the spatial protection of marine mammals, particularly in coastal regions, to engage in a comprehensive exploration of existing Marine Protected Area (MPA) tools (such as designations for features of interest as well as ecosystem-based approach). We are anticipating an active session of knowledge sharing with the aim to identify what high levels of protection are currently available worldwide and what elements influence their success. We believe that these discussions could possibly lead to innovative strategies for marine conservation, taking into account the unique challenges posed by the high mobility of marine mammals.

Organizer: Maja Nimak-Wood, Ophelie Humphrey, and Nikki Taylor (Natural England & JNCC), 


9M4. The impact of large and small cetaceans on climate and marine biodiversity

TUESDAY, 08:30-12:30, Aula Colonnato - Via Longo, 19, University of Catania.

Description: During this workshop we will take you into the life of cetaceans to make you better understand the roles large and small cetaceans play towards the marine biodiversity and the impact they have on the climate. We explain and show you the role of whale poo, the whale pump, the impact of migration routes and carbon sink by whales. 
This introduction leads to playing the interactive “Whale Poo game” in small groups. It consists of setting up a complete marine ecosystem with many elements (phyto- and zooplankton, whales, whale poo, sun, fish etc.) on a poster been laid down on a table (A0 format). Then human factors (fishing, boat traffic and strikes, whale hunt, etc.) start playing an increasing role, participants can increase, decrease the number of elements and discuss within the group what is happening. Finally, we will arrive in the “present time” and you will be asked how to revive the natural marine system (discussion within the group). Coming back together in one group, questions concerning the little knowledge and acknowledgement about this will be raised followed by how to improve and increase research and knowledge.

Organizer: Frank Zanderink (RUGVIN), 


9A1. Common guidelines for systematic monitoring of cetacean using ferries/cargos as science platform

TUESDAY, 14:00-18:00, Aula Ex cappella 1st floor - Via Empedocle, 58, University of Catania

Description: Many research bodies monitor macro fauna such as cetaceans, turtles and sea birds using large vessels such as ferries/cargos as platform for systematic surveys. Several networks regularly survey the Western and Central Mediterranean region, the “North East Atlantic” and the “Macoronesia sea”. The networks are expanding also towards other countries of the Mediterranean Region (such as Tunisia and Marocco).
Within the IMPEL project EU Marine Transborder Transects the partnership started a road map in order to write common guidelines for systematic monitoring of cetacean using ferries/cargos. In addition, the Conceptu Maris Life project started to standardise data collection from ferries including also collection of water samples in order to analyse EDNA and Stable Isotopes.
Consequently, there is the strong need to write common guidelines also to involve in the monitoring other European and Mediterranean countries and research bodies. Guidelines will take into consideration the monitoring protocol for visual surveys and sample collection, parameters for data collection, data format and database interoperability, the legislative framework at national, European and sea conventions levels, the appropriate statistical analysis to undertake to fulfil the legislative requirements. Guidelines, likely published in early 2025) will also include monitoring protocols for turtles, sea birds and marine macro-litter.

Organizer: Roberto Crosti (ISPRA) and Antonella Servidio (Triton), 


9A2. Student workshop – Soft skills

TUESDAY, 14:00-18:00, Aula Colonnato - Via Longo, 19, University of Catania.

Description:  Early career scientists often focused solely on publication and research while ignoring the important soft skills which can be just as important and maybe even more so. The ability to communicate your research properly, to show (spoken and written) commitment and to successfully advertise yourself are very important skills in the life of (PhD) students that want to advance themselves in all biological fields, including marine mammal research and conservation.  This workshop will be dedicated to helping the ECS student acquire these skills through practical exercises, discussions, and expert’s tips.

Organizer:  Yaly Mevorach (Student Representative, ECS. Morris Kahn Marine Research Station, Department of Marine Biology, Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences, University of Haifa, Israel), Carla Tumino (ECS LOC Student Representative, Marecamp Association), in collaboration with Christian Mulder (University of Catania),


9A3. Recreational activities and their impact on cetaceans (an ASCOBANS workshop)

TUESDAY, 14:00-18:00, Aula Darwin - Via Empedocle, 58, University of Catania

Description:  Small and often fast moving motorized vessels used for recreational purposes appear to be increasing in many coastal waters of Europe whilst there is considerable anecdotal information that negative interactions between them and cetaceans are also increasing. These interactions may constitute significant harassment and other harm, such as causing stress by chasing the animals and even striking them. The rise in the number of personal watercraft in particular poses major challenges for awareness raising and education, as well as ensuring compliance to codes of conduct and regulations. Cetaceans are in theory highly protected species in European nations but even where this is enshrined in law it is often difficult to enforce. The workshop will provide a platform to review the status of marine recreation across Europe, and gather information about impacts through presentations followed by a facilitated group discussion. The latter will focus upon standardizing a definition of disturbance and how best for regulators to identify it, and the actions might follow to try to limit negative interactions. A report from the workshop authored by the participants will be provided to ASCOBANS and if there is enthusiasm from the workshop participants, a scientific publication may also follow.

Organizer: Mark Peter Simmonds (University of Bristol; OceanCare), Peter Evans (SeaWatch; University of Bangor), 

9A4. Setting up a whale poo bank network 

TUESDAY, 14:00-18:00, Aula Marie Curie - Via Empedocle, 58, University of Catania.

Description: The aim of this workshop is to set up a “whale poo bank network” with identified sources of cetacean faeces and labs, able to undertake the analysis to assess the phytoplankton growth across species, populations and locations. This network will then help to start answer the data gap of small cetaceans' role in the “whale pump” and other nutrient flows. We will start off with an overview on whales' ecosystem function and give an example of the harbour porpoise ecosystem functioning research project (by Stichting Rugvin’s) focusing on harbour porpoise faeces' impact on phytoplankton growth and the methodology used. This will lead to an open workshop session, including discussion points on: i) where cetacean faecal samples can be captured and stored; ii) which samples should be excluded; iiI) what labs/facilities can undertake the analysis; iv) sharing the protocols used for data collection and analysis, and v) identifying funding sources. 

Organizer: Tamara Narganes Homfeldt (Whale & Dolphin Conservation), 

9F1. Advances in environmental DNA for monitoring and ecological studies of marine mammals

TUESDAY, 08:30-12:30 and 14:00-18:00, Aula Sud - Via Androne, 81, University of Catania.

Description: The rapidly developing field of environmental DNA provides new capabilities that enhance and expand existing approaches to understanding species distributions, habitat use and trophic interactions. Such knowledge is central to understanding marine mammal exposure and vulnerability to human activities, and development of policy responses and conservation action. In this one-day workshop we will provide a forum for researchers to share the latest eDNA research that advances understanding of marine mammal ecology and monitoring capabilities, and to discuss protocols and best practice for the design and implementation of studies. We also want to facilitate networking opportunities and discussion of how a coordinated Europe-wide marine mammal eDNA monitoring network could be developed, including issues such as standards for molecular methods and data analysis pipelines, and the long-term research and policy needs of both researchers and end-users. The workshop will include sessions for invited/submitted presentations, round table discussions on methods and best practice, and breakout groups to discuss issues relating to developing marine mammal eDNA monitoring networks and policy needs, closing with a synthesis session to summarise all the work covered. There may be potential for the workshop synthesis to be written up as a review or perspective article, authored by workshop participants.

Message from the organizer: To help us organise the workshop and plan structured discussions, we ask participants to complete a pre-workshop questionnaire on their interests and activities in relation to eDNA with marine mammals. Reponses from people at all career levels and experience are welcome. Using this form you can also indicate if you’d like to contribute a presentation or poster as part of the workshop.

Organizer: Simon Goodman (School of Biology, University of Leeds, UK), Elena Valsecchi (Dept. Environmental & Earth Sciences, University of Milano-Bicocca), 


9F2. New technologies in health assessment of marine mammals

TUESDAY, 08:30-12:30 and 14:00-18:00, Aula Longo - Via Androne, 81, University of Catania.

Description: This workshop delves into cutting-edge methodologies for marine mammal health assessment, emphasizing the integration of innovative technologies like virtopsy, 3D surface scanning, virtual reality (VR), and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Virtopsy, a non-invasive postmortem imaging technique, employs X-ray, CT, MRI, and ultrasound for a preliminary internal examination, enhancing diagnostic capabilities and providing supplementary data for traditional necropsies. 3D surface scanning facilitates the registration of anatomical features as calibrated 3D models, enabling detailed examination of animal integument before invasive necropsies. The synergy of virtopsy and 3D surface scanning enhances diagnostic accuracy by scrutinizing both external and internal features in situ, potentially revealing overlooked lesions. Emerging methodologies like virtual and augmented reality aid operator training for immersive necropsies, impacting international standards and raising public awareness. UAVs offer non-invasive alternatives for marine mammal monitoring, photo-identification, morphometry estimates, and blow sample collection. Precise anatomical reconstructions support pre-mortem assessments, while accurate virtual representations from postmortem examinations deepen understanding of anatomy, diseases, and pathologies. These transformative technologies promise a significant impact on marine mammal health assessment, prompting essential discussions on methodologies, standardization, and challenges. This interdisciplinary workshop aims to equip participants with both theoretical knowledge and practical skills, fostering a comprehensive understanding of advanced technologies to enhance marine mammal health assessment and contribute to conservation endeavors.

Organizer: Jean-Marie Graïc (University of Padua, Italy), in collaboration with Tommaso Gerussi, Sandro Mazzariol, Brian Kot, Tabris Chung, and Henry Tsui, 


9F3. Advancing knowledge on fin whales in the Mediterranean Sea

TUESDAY, 08:30-12:30 and 14:00-18:00, Aula Linneo - Via Empedocle, 58, University of Catania

Description:  For several years, the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area (ACCOBAMS) and the International Whaling Commission (IWC) have stressed the importance of, and worked on developing, a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for Mediterranean Sea fin whales. This included the holding of a drafting workshop in December 2019 and subsequent refinements. The IWC/ACCOBAMS guidelines for the adoption of CMPs include the need for a dedicated stakeholder workshop, to review and finalise any CMP. Primarily due to the effects of COVID, such a workshop has been delayed. The objective of this new expert workshop is not to revise the draft CMP but rather to review the most recent (post-2019) research on Mediterranean fin whales to ensure that if necessary, IWC/ACCOBAMS can update the scientific background to the draft CMP and any consequential amendments to proposed actions prior to the stakeholder workshop. The primary focus will be on population structure and movements, seasonal distribution and abundance, and important knowledge gaps. This may include potential and identified threats. Interested people should contact the organisers and will be expected to deliver brief presentations on recent findings and actively contribute to group discussions.

Organizer: Pauline Gauffier (Madeira Whale Museum), 


We are striving to minimize waste production during the conference. 

To help us achieve a successful low-waste event, we kindly encourage you to bring your own water bottle or cup.


| M E N U   S u m m a r y |

Conference main page 

Conference program & Abstract book 


Venues & Social Events

Enjoy Catania

Important dates 


Guidelines for Authors

Student volunteering 

Travel and Accommodation 


Supporters and Exhibitors